As private investigators, it’s safe to say that we use thousands of online websites and databases on a monthly basis. While the types of websites that we visit depend on the case that we are working on, below we have outlined some of our “go to” resources.
While there are many sites that offer free access to information, the best sites usually have some sort of fee. In some cases, access is restricted to private investigators, but in most cases, the information is available to the public.
[You may notice several New York based links, which is a bit bias, but it’s where we are based and it happens to be the financial capital of the world.]
Without further ado, here’s our list of 101 research and investigative links for a private investigator (or amateur sleuth), in no particular order:
Professional Investigative Databases
1. Accurint / IRB ($): Database for investigative professionals which has “billions” of records from numerous public and proprietary sources. The gold standard in investigative databases.
2. TLO ($): The new kid on the block for investigative databases. They have a user friendly site, with fresh information and is highly recommended.
3. Tracers Information Specialists, Inc. ($): Confirmation of database search results is often necessary; Tracers is a reliable alternative.
4. Skip Smasher ($): While I never rely on Skip Smasher as a primary source of information, having options is key and Skip Smasher is one of those.
Court Searches / Public Records
5. LexisNexis CourtLink ($): Provides docket research and access to the one of largest collections of federal, state, and local court records.
6. LexisNexis ($): The industry standard for public records searches.
7. Westlaw ($): Always the second fiddle to LexisNexis, but make no mistake, they can go toe-to-toe with them.
8. PACER ($): Provides civil, criminal and bankruptcy case and docket information from federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts.
9. BRB Publications, Inc.: BRB’s has more than 3,500 vendors who maintain, search or retrieve public records.
10. Free Public Records: A treasure trove of more than 55,000 links to free public record databases online by type and location.
11. Los Angeles Superior Court ($): An index of defendants in criminal cases in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
12. The United States Tax Court: If the IRS has determined that an individual has a tax deficiency, the taxpayer can dispute the deficiency in US Tax Court.
13. Connecticut Courts: Access to Superior Court records for Connecticut dating back 10 years.
14. Court PC of CT ($): Third-party resource for Connecticut Court records dating back to the 1980s
15. Virginia Courts: Access to General District and Circuit Court records for Virginia
16. Wisconsin Courts: Access to public records of the Wisconsin Circuit Courts
17. Maryland Courts: Maryland judiciary case search
18. Missouri Courts: Case management system for Missouri state courts
19. Texas Secretary of State ($): Texas corporate records and UCC filings
20. Georgia Property Records ($): Property records throughout the State of Georgia
21. Search Systems Criminal Record Search ($): Searches more than 450 million criminal records in the U.S.
22. Google: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and it is a pretty good place to start any investigation.
23. Bing: Not ever search engine is created equally. Bing provides alternative search results so be sure to search here.
24. DuckDuckGo: For anonymous searches and unique search results. DuckDuckGo is a great source.
25. Google Search Operators: Because typing a straight search string is not enough.
26. Spokeo: The people search engine organizes whitepages, public records and social media networks all in one place.
27. TinEye: Image search engine
Employment / Degree Verification
28. National Student Clearinghouse ($): National Student Clearinghouse provides a service to verify students majors, degrees, dates of attendance, and dates of graduation.
29. The Work Number ($): Need to verify employment history? This is a good place to start.
Financial and Government Regulatory
30. Investment Adviser Search: Information about current and certain former Investment Adviser Representatives, Investment Adviser firms registered with the SEC and/or state securities regulators.
31. FINRA Broker Check: Provides information on the background of registered investment professionals.
32. FINRA Arbitration & Mediation: Records on arbitration and mediation awards for FINRA Cases.
33. North American Securities Administrators Association: Links to all 50 state securities regulators
34. National Futures Association: Self-regulatory body for the U.S. Futures Industry
35. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: Regulatory body for investment industry protecting individuals interests
36. Governmentattic: Provides electronic copies of thousands of interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
37. U.S. Department of Treasury: Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List
38. Bureau of Industry and Security – U.S. Department of Commerce: Denied persons list
39. System for Award Management: Access to information for federal government awarded contracts and contractors, among other things.
40. US Department of Labor Whistleblower Search: Search for a whistleblower complaint
41. Open Secrets: Third-party resource for federal political contributions.
42. Federal Election Commission: Federal political contribution records directly from the source.
43. Follow The Money: Search state political contributions records.
44. Secretaries of State: Find Corporation Information and Online Searchable Databases.
New York Specific Links
45. New York City Department of Finance – Office of the City Register: Property records for the five boroughs of New York City.
46. New York City Property: Provides up to date tax information for properties in the five boroughs of New York City.
47. New York State – Department of State Division of Corporations, State Records and UCC: Search for New York State business and not-for-profit corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships, as well as other miscellaneous businesses.
48. New York State Campaign Financial Disclosure: New York State political contribution records.
49. The New York City Campaign Finance Board: New York City campaign contribution records.
50. The New York Unified Court System (UCS): Access to eCourts, which provides access to information on future court appearances in New York and limited historical cases.
51. New York State Supreme Court and the County Clerk of New York: Online access to County of New York Supreme Court cases.
52. Westchester County Clerk ($): Access to legal records and land records for the Westchester County, New York.
53. New York Attorney Search: Verify the license of a New York attorney
54. New York Professional License Search: Search for professional licenses in the State of New York, like doctors, accountants and architects.
55. New York Department of State, Division of Licensing Services: Search for other professional licenses including notary public, security guard and private investigator.
56. New York Real Estate License Search: New York real estate licenses
57. New York Inmate Locator: Searches New York State Department of Correction records.
58. Council of International Investigators : For over 50 years, this established and well respected international association of over 300 professional private investigators and private detective meets strict membership criteria maintaining the highest quality professionals within the private investigation business.
59. World Association of Detectives: Started in 1921 and was formed as a joint venture by the combined membership of the World Association of Detectives and the International Secret Service Association.
State Criminal Record Checks
63. Georgia Felon Search ($)
66. Illinois State Police ($)
70. Maine Criminal History Record ($)
79. Oregon Open Records ($)
85. Zip Code Database: Free ZIP code lookup for any valid ZIP code including find a city, state, county name, area code, time zone, latitude and longitude, and more…
86. Internet Archive: An investigators playground. Like a paper library, the Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.
87. Domain Tools ($): DomainTools offers an excellent searchable database of current and historical domain name registration and hosting data.
88. The U.S. Department of Justice: National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW): National source of sex offender data
89. Federal Inmate Locator: U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate locator
90. State of Delaware – Department of State Division of Corporations: More than half of the Fortune 500 is incorporated in Delaware and so are many financial related firms.
91. Guidestar ($): Records relating to non-profit organizations
92. Tape Recording Laws: Tape recording laws for all 50 states
93. Knowem: Searches hundreds of social networks to see if a username may have been used on another social network.
94. Ancestry.com ($): There are hordes of genealogical sites out there, but Ancestry.com has the most robust database.
95. TheOnion: Because we all need a good laugh once in a while
96. SpyDialer: SpyDialer lets you find out who is behind a cell phone number by stealthily capturing a voicemail recording.
97. Newspapers.com ($): Millions of historical newspapers dating back to the 1700s
98. BoardReader: Message board search engine
99. Historical Military Records: Verify historical military records
100. Active Military Status: Verify active military status with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Website
101. Legacy.com: Obituary announcements